PALMETTO -- For three and a half years, the Palmetto Little League has sought a location to call its own.
After years of patiently waiting for action from the City of Palmetto and Manatee County, a plan has officially been set in motion.
On Monday, Palmetto City Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a site plan for the expansion of Blackstone Park on 14th Avenue West, the future site of three regulation size ballfields for the team.
With the approval, Manatee County can move forward with putting the construction of the project to bid.
"I am absolutely so excited," Palmetto Mayor Shirley Bryant said. "You don't walk away and not see these children that want to play ball."
Since 2009, the Little League has played at the two adult softball fields at Blackstone Park after Palmetto officials sold the Little League's previous home to the county school board as a site for a new elementary school.
In September, the Manatee County Commission approved a $3.3 million plan for construction of the fields.
Though the land is owned by the county, the facility must meet city code requirements.
The city of Palmetto has agreed to contribute $800,000 toward the cost of the complex, with county park impact fees and community partnerships providing the rest of the money.
Bryant said the goal was to build a local complex so the youths of Palmetto wouldn't have to travel.
"That's what's important to me, is those kids that are lost in this process that don't have an opportunity unless we have local field ability," she said.
The expansion is set for the northeast end of the park along 23rd Street West and also will include a parking lot, press box, concession building, bleachers, sidewalks and lighting.
The city considered buying about 10 acres of land between 11th and 14th avenues west, but the price for the land was more than the city could afford.
The planned project consists of remediating the top layer of existing soil at the site by hauling it to the Lena Road landfill and exchanging it for clean fill that will serve as a buffer.
The current soil is contaminated as a result of previous farming.
In other news, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency announced it applied Monday for a $250,000 restoration grant through the Gulf Coast Ecosytem Restoration Council to restore historic wetlands on 12-acres of lands designated as the future site of Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The park, which will surround the Palmetto Youth Center, 501 17th St. W., will cost$1.1 million.
The new park will feature a man-made lake, trails and restored wetlands and is expected to be completed by August.
The city has already secured a $500,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District for the building park. If the city is awarded the restoration grant, city clerk Jim Freeman said the city will only have to fund the remaining costs.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.